Being in an auto accident can be traumatizing, even if you’re not responsible for causing it. You can do yourself a lot of good if you’re able to stay calm in the aftermath and recognize the usefulness of a few of these tips:
Stay at the Scene
If you’re not hurt, it is probably best to be one of the last who leaves the scene. But as a rule of thumb, you should never leave the accident scene until it’s appropriate to do so. Even if the accident isn’t your fault, you’ll face suspicion as a potential hit-and-run driver if you leave the scene of an accident, especially if someone has sustained injuries or was killed.
Check the Status of all Drivers and Passengers
Get medical attention for anyone who may need it. If a passenger or driver is unconscious or complains of neck or back pain, don’t move them until qualified medical personnel arrive. The only real exception is if an injured person is lying in a pool of gas that you perceive may catch on fire. In a case like that, move them as steadily and slowly as possible while supporting their neck and back.
Call the Police
If the accident has caused property damage, physical injury, or death, you must call the police. You should also ask for a police report be filed and note down the name and badge numbers of the officers who arrive or who take the report. Sometimes the police are unable to come to the scene of an accident where serious injury or death does not occur; make sure you report the accident to the police and get identification from the officer or dispatcher taking that information.
Exchange Information with Drivers and Passengers
After you make sure all the drivers and passengers are OK or in the process of being tended to, get information from all the drivers of any other vehicles involved in the accident. That information should include names, phone numbers, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, vehicle license plate numbers, and basic insurance information. You should also get the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of all passengers and witnesses.
Do NOT Apologize for Anything
The scene after an accident can be very chaotic at first. It may not be immediately apparent who’s at fault—or who’s more at fault—for causing the accident. Also, fault doesn’t always determine which insurer pays for any damages. You can help yourself significantly if you stay quiet and avoid admitting guilt unintentionally.
Talk to Witnesses
Get information on every witness you can. Ask them what they saw and whether or not they’ve ever seen other accidents in the same location. Don’t try to force or cajole information from any witness. Write down what they tell you. If you are not able to get a full story from a witness, ask to get their name and phone number so that your attorney can contact them.
Use a mobile phone to photograph the scene and any damage to your vehicle immediately after the accident. These photos, which are being taken for your attorney, can help determine how much you should be compensated for the damages to you and your car, and may help back up your case in court if that becomes necessary. You may also want to take and store photos of your car now before you ever get into an accident so that you can use them to compare and contrast damaged areas.